ND?Women’s Basketball: Irish unable to overcome Huskies
Jay Fitzpatrick | Monday, February 23, 2009
Notre Dame was hanging in against top-ranked, undefeated Connecticut, right up until that 22-1 run in the second half.
An Ashley Barlow layup with 16:11 to go in the second half put the Irish on top 43-41, but the Irish would not make another field goal until forward Becca Bruszewski nailed a jumper at the 9:12 mark.
By the end of the game, the Irish became the Huskies’ latest victim, losing 76-66 – Connecticut’s smallest margin of victory all season.
“I thought defensively we had a number of breakdowns during that stretch. We were unable to find [Huskies guard Renee] Montgomery and [Huskies forward Maya] Moore and they hit three or four threes in that stretch, and then we weren’t able to score,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We had a couple of bad shots, a couple of turnovers, and that was obviously the game.”
Moore, last year’s Big East Player of the Year, had 18 points and eight rebounds in the win. Montgomery had a game-high 20 points and eight assists, compared to only two turnovers.
“[Montgomery is] up for player of the year in the country. She runs her team very intelligently – eight assists, two turnovers, which is just a phenomenal assist-to-turnover ratio,” McGraw said. “She shot the ball well, she had a lot of points, she played great defensively. She’s a terrific player.”
Despite being down 19 points with less than 10 minutes to play, the Irish refused to give up and quickly fought back to a more manageable deficit. A Lindsay Schrader jumper with 3:42 remaining in the game the Irish only nine points behind.
“I thought we really battled – Schrader and Barlow in particular, and Becca [Bruszewski], I thought they played really well. I thought they just battled,” McGraw said.
McGraw said that she was glad to see her team fight back in the second half, and that it just missed its opportunities to win the game.
“We stayed within our game plan, outside of that run. It’s a nine point game with four minutes left,” she said. “I thought we had plenty of chances, we just missed a lot of shots – a lot of easy shots.”
Barlow led the Irish in scoring with 18 points, while Schrader recorded her second straight double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
As a team, the Irish hung tough on the glass against Connecticut, and outrebounded the Huskies 47-46.
Notre Dame started the game out well, with Barlow nailing a 3-pointer as part of a 6-0 Irish run to start the game. The six-point deficit was Connecticut’s largest of the season.
“I thought Ashley got us off to a great start. She hit her first three, and I thought that really helped us gain a little confidence. And she hit a couple more shots and I thought, in the first half at least, she was shooting the ball well,” McGraw said.
The one lesson McGraw said she can take out of the loss was that her team definitely has the tenacious attitude necessary for postseason success.
“I think it’s like we’ve been all year. We’re fighting, we don’t quit,” she said. “I think we’re fighters and they’re going to work hard and finish strong starting with Tuesday night [against Syracuse].”
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said in his postgame news conference that it will be harder to draw coaching points out of the narrow victory for his squad.
“Like I told the team, you’re at somewhat of a disadvantage when you play at Connecticut, because the lessons that you learn to really help you become a better team are when you lose … you can really learn a lot when you lose, but it’s a disadvantage because we almost never lose,” he said. “So, how do you teach your guys to learn from wins? That’s hard to do.”
– The crowd of 14,533 at Sunday’s game was the largest crowd for a Connecticut home game this season. The game was played at the XL Center in Hartford – the site of the 2009 Big East tournament – and not the Huskies’ usual home court, the Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.